At Rome, the bankers were called Argentarii, Men-sarii, Numularii, or Collybistce. The banking-houses or banks were called Tabernce Argentarice, or Mensce Numularice. Some of these bankers were appointed by the government to receive the taxes, others carried on business on their own account. Their mode of transacting business was somewhat similar to that which is in use in modern times.
Into these houses the State, or men of wealth, caused their revenues to be paid, and they settled their accounts with their creditors by giving a draft or check on the bank. If the creditor also had an account at the same bank, the account was settled by an order to make the transfer of so much money from one name to another. To assign over money or to pay money by a draft, was called prcescribere, and rescribere; the assignment or draft was called attributio.
These bankers, too, were money-changers. They also lent money on interest, and allowed a lower rate of interest on money deposited in their hands.
In a country where commerce was looked upon with contempt, banking could not be deemed very respectable. Among most of the ancient agricultural nations there was a prejudice against the taking of interest for the loan of money. Hence the private bankers at Rome were sometimes held in disrepute, though those whom the government had established as public cashiers, or receivers-general, as we may term them, held so exalted a rank that some of them became consuls.
The Romans had also loan banks, from which the poor citizens received loans without paying interest. We are told that the confiscated property of criminals was converted into a fund by Augustus Caesar, and that from this fund sums of money were lent without interest to those citizens who could pledge value to double the amount. The same system was pursued by Tiberius. He advanced a large capital, which was lent for a term of two or three years to those who could give landed security to double the value of the loan. Alexander Se-verus reduced the market-rate of interest by lending sums of money at a low rate, and by advancing money to poor citizens to purchase lands, and agreeing to receive payment from the produce.